Ten MPs who represent constituencies in Birmingham and Sutton Coldfield have written to Trinity Mirror’s chief executive Simon Fox, left, demanding a meeting over proposals to cut 19 roles at the Mail and sister weekly the Birmingham Post.
The letter follows a similar protest by three MPs from Coventry, where the company is set to axe six jobs as part of the overall restructure of its West Midlands operation.
An internal memo sent to staff in the two cities featured an admission by Trinity Mirror that the Mail could no longer report on everything happening on its patch, while it was also revealed journalists would be set individual targets for the number of readers they attract online.
The MPs’ letter reads: “As the ten Members of Parliament representing Birmingham, we were alarmed to hear that the Birmingham Post and Mail is planning 19 editorial redundancies – more than a quarter of its journalists.
“The admission from Trinity Mirror that the Birmingham Post and Mail cannot ‘dutifully report everything which happens on our patch’ is also very alarming. What does this mean for coverage of the city council, political affairs, the education system, criminal activity, the health service and courts? Are you going to be able to hold figures in authority to account?
“Does it mean that only stories which interest the public will be appearing, rather than those in the public interest?
“We are worried that Birmingham brands, of which so many Brummies are proud, are being wound down, the decline hastened as a result of under investment and poor management from the parent company in London.
“We find it unbelievable that an established news organisation covering Britain’s second largest city at a time of economic growth is failing to make a profit. And that Birmingham is being talked of as being the first major city to lose its daily newspaper? If not now then quite possibly in the not too distant future.”
“We understand the local news industry has faced challenges, competition from the internet and new media but have to ask why other cities are maintaining larger news organisations.
“Staff understood that Trinity Mirror was going to nurture and grow the online and mobile side of the publication, while maintaining its print edition. But now it appears that the company is demanding immediate results, and that the recent rapid growth in online circulation is not enough.
“We wish to meet with you as soon as possible to discuss this issue further and would ask that no irrevocable steps are taken in the meantime.”
The signatories of the letter include nine Labour MPs and one Conservative.
They are Jack Dromey (Birmingham Erdington), Roger Godsiff (Birmingham Hall Green), Shabana Mahmood (Birmingham Ladywood), Liam Byrne (Birmingham Hodge Hill), Steve McCabe (Birmingham Selly Oak), Jess Phillips (Birmingham Yardley), Gisela Stuart (Birmingham Edgbaston), Khalid Mahmood (Birmingham Perry Barr) Richard Burden (Birmingham Northfields) and Andrew Mitchell (Sutton Coldfield).
The two cities’ NUJ chapels have passed motions of no confidence in the management over the proposal to introduce individual audience targets, which they say will force them to write “click-bait” stories rather than in-depth investigations.
Birmingham Post editor Stacey Barnfield announced he would be leaving his role the day after the plans were first unveiled.
A Trinity Mirror spokesperson said: “The proposed restructure of our newsrooms in Coventry and Birmingham is essential to continue the progress we have already made in becoming truly digitally focussed and help us revitalise our print products.
“The proposals are quite significant in the change in structure we need to equip ourselves as a flexible, multi-skilled newsroom of the future.
“The decision taken to implement these proposals has not been taken lightly, but it is necessary for us to adapt to commercial challenges and provide a structure that gives longer term sustainability of the business.
“We remain committed to daily print publishing and we are maintaining our print portfolio, including revitalising the Birmingham Mail and Coventry Telegraph in the coming months to appeal to a wider audience.”